Belfast Telegraph

Cutbacks force Queen's to slash 1,000 student places and lose 230 jobs

By Rebecca Black

Queen's University is set to slash 1,010 student places as well as shedding 236 jobs.

The student place cuts will be phased over the next three years, with a reduction of 290 this September.

Vice Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said the university was forced to act due to Stormont cuts.

He revealed that the university had lost total funding of £12m, and issued the stark warning: "If we continue to absorb cuts without any impact we will destroy the quality and reputation of Queen's."

Job losses will be among both academic and non-academic staff and Queen's says no compulsory redundancies should be required.

There are currently around 17,000 full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students at the university, and around 3,500 staff.

Queen's has a current intake of around 4,500 undergraduates per year.

There are no immediate plans to close departments or courses, but it is understood the cuts in funding may put some departments and courses at risk.

Mr Johnston said the university's Senate agreed to slash student places and jobs in response to the cuts handed down from Stormont.

It lost an £8m grant from the Department of Employment and Learning, but Mr Johnston said the total loss to the university was £12m.

"The Senate has agreed, as a result of these cuts, to decrease the number of students, beginning with 290 this incoming year and a total decrease of around 1,010 students," he said.

"It has also agreed to a voluntary severance scheme to allow 236 people to retire from the university as a result of these cuts.

"The cuts overall amount to close to £12m. They are made up of an £8m decrease in our funding from government and a loss of tuition fees alongside that."

Mr Johnston said the university had already seen its funding cut by 16% over the last four years and admitted "this is a really challenging time for Northern Ireland's universities.

"The reason these cuts have had to be made is the level of funding for higher education is dramatically lower than what we see in Scotland or England.

"Currently we have a deficit of 18% in terms of funding from English universities and somewhere around 12% from Scottish universities."

The Vice Chancellor said Queen's could no longer simply absorb funding cuts.

"If we continue to absorb cuts without any impact we will destroy the quality and reputation of both universities and particularly of Queen's," he said.

"My message is that we need to start a very serious conversation about funding higher education properly and start it quickly. We have to become masters of our own destiny, we can no longer rely on government to fund us."

Queen's receives around a third of its income - just under £100m - from the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL)

DEL's budget was reduced by £62m earlier this year, and its budget for higher education institutions fell from £203m to £186m. reduction of 8.2%.

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